Millefiore Clarkes dedicates herself to the craft and community of media arts in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Through her company One Thousand Flowers Productions. She produces and directs a variety of media work such as short and feature documentaries, music videos, short dramas, and experimental videos: www.onethousandflowers.tv
I have been working as a filmmaker in the film community of Prince Edward Island for over a decade. I am self-taught and wandered into filmmaking almost by mistake. I think perhaps that I am a poet who accidentally picked up a camera instead of a pen.
I live in the rural community of Belfast with my partner Daniel McRae and our son Henry. Daniel is an Ecological Forester and Henry is very enthusiastic about dinosaurs these days. I grew up with my time divided between downtown Toronto and Belfast (a community that boasts a general store, post office, rec centre, legion, and horse racing track). The polarities of these two experiences have shaped me greatly.
I have recently completed my third film with the National Film Board of Canada - The Song and the Sorrow. It's about to be released at film festivals in Atlantic Canada in the Fall of 2018 (Look for it at The Atlantic International Film Festival and Lunenburg Doc Fest in September / Rendezvous with Maddness Festival and Charlottetown Film Festival in October). It's a film that follows Juno-Award-Winning musician Catherine MacLellan, as she attempts to come to terms with her father's mental health legacy. Her father was Gene MacLellan, the reluctant songwriting star who penned some of the biggest hits of the 70s including Anne Murray's Snowbird, and Put Your Hand in the Hand. The film contemplates the relationship between sorrow and creativity. And also examines the imprints that a parent can leave upon a child, especially when mental health issues are not addressed openly. Catherine MacLellan is determined to share her story, so that others may learn and take solace and courage. I'm excited to have it released, and anticipate audience's reactions. It's a film full of music and contemplation.
I have directed two other docs for the National Film Board - Island Green about organic farming on PEI, and Blue Rodeo - On the Road about the band Blue Rodeo. I have created dozens of short documentaries for businesses and organizations through my company One Thousand Flowers Productions. I have also created a number of music videos and experimental works for festivals, for online platforms, and as art installations. I am well aware of how lucky I am to be doing what I love and learning with each new project and collaboration. It's not always sunny. Some days I wonder if I'm on the right path. But the craft of filmmaking always draws me back. It's almost never boring.
The film community on PEI is one I'm proud to be a part of. There is a small but dedicated group of filmmakers who call PEI home. We have been producing an impressive amount over the years, without much support. As a result, many of us have become jacks of all trades. I would count myself amongst that group. I am a camera operator, a director, a producer, a sound-recordist if necessary... But where my true passion lies is in the edit suite. There I can be entirely myself creatively. With no one watching, I am able to enter into the meditative state (sometimes) that feels close to pure creative expression. I love so many aspects of editing video. I liken it to weaving - there are an array elements to interconnect: rhythm, image, story, colour, motion, sound, music. At the best of times these elements take on a life of their own, and talk to one another and to me. At the best of times it's hard to know who is creating the thing that is coming into being. And by this description I suppose I'd classify myself as an experimental, or process-based editor.
The film community on PEI is at the brink of becoming an industry. Through the hard work of many advocates, we have recently received official government support through PEI's new PEI Film and Media Incentive. And our film co-op - FilmPEI - has recently undergone a major move and upgrade. As a result, we are a galvanized bunch. Many of my peers have recently received funding from major agencies, such as Telefilm and The Harold Greenburg Fund, to produce feature films. There is a spark of hope and excitement in the air and it's a great time to be a filmmaker on PEI. Though it's all relative of course. One can't expect Hollywood budgets, but then we don't have Hollywood headaches either.
What are you most proud of professionally? And who or why?
Perhaps my proudest professional accomplishment thus far is the short experimental lyrical video I produced in 2011 entitled December in Toronto. It was my first experience of a video going 'viral' on the internet. It was selected as a prestigious 'Staff Pick' on Vimeo, and as a result travelled through the channels of the internet, through blogs, and posts, internationally. It currently has close to 200,000 views and I still get emails from people all around the world who tell me that it moved them, or impressed them. That's a real feather in my cap.
What's your vision for Atlantic Canada in 10 years? What’s our biggest opportunity now?
I (like many) am acutely aware of the changes that are upon us. Climate change is the undeniable underlying influencer of our time. It is no longer happening sometime later. It is happening now. And the future is uncertain (it always is - but perhaps now on a greater scale than human's have known). We feel its effects in the unprecedented heat of the summer. In droughts that put farms and food and risk. In heightened political tensions. In the polarization of groups and opinions. In global diaspora.
My hope for Atlantic Canada is that we can seize the opportunity of scale. We are a relatively small population covering an easily defined land base. We have political tools at our disposal that not many collections of people of this small scale have. If we can dialogue instead of finger point - we may be able to meet the coming challenges with creativity and level-headed-ness. I must say that I am not optimistic. Truthfully. But that is my hope. And I hope to contribute to this dialogue and awareness-raising through my work in the future. I have plans to incorporate themes of climate change and environmental instability in upcoming new works.
What was your greatest stage of growth? What made it a shift for you?
My greatest stage of growth took place when I actually sat back and considered what I wanted my life to look like and where I wanted to spend my energies. There are only so many hours in a day, and when I was in my late 20s I was working in arts administration. I was working in my field but not practicing the craft of filmmaking. Filmmaking, like any craft, requires simply hours (and hours) spent on refining. One day I asked myself if I wanted to actually make films. The answer was yes so I switched gears, and gave myself permission to just do the thing I wanted to do. That was just over a decade ago and since then I have been growing and learning with each new project. Sometimes I'm mortified by mistakes, but often times those are the greatest resource for improvement.
What's your favourite or most read book or podcast? Now or at each of your greatest stages of growth?
It’s an impossible question to answer - a favourite book. But I certainly have a number of books and authors that spring to mind the moment it is asked… so in no particular order, here goes: Anything by Toni Morrison (I love her lyricism). Anything by Edith Wharton (I love her insight into human motivations). Almost anything by Margaret Atwood (I love her cynicism). Anything by Dorothy Parker (I love her broken heart and her cynicism too). One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabrial Garcia Marquez (Magic realism is more real than reality to me). Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (He’s got the human mind figured out). A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (Because I laughed so hard I cried).
What's your deepest learning from this past year? How did/will you apply it?
I have learned a few significant lessons in a number of areas this year. The lesson behind the lessons seems to be the same each time: When something negative happens to you, even if it’s your own fault, you have a choice: You can use the crack in your comfort to let a little light in. To grow a new root. To become stronger and wiser and hopefully more kind. Or you can let regret or anger pull you under. Usually it’s a bit of both. And try not to blame yourself for either response. Just keep struggling to find the strength and growth that is hidden there in the midst of the hardship.
Who's inspired you, directly or indirectly? How have they inspired you?
I’ve taken inspiration from many sources over the past while. Locally speaking, I’ve been inspired and had a fire lit under me somewhat - by my peers in the filmmaking community on PEI. Many of my friends that I have worked with as scrappy independent filmmakers in a small island province are now coming into their own as artists, as business people, as real industry players. They are setting the bar for professionalism locally and as a result I’m not allowed to rest on my laurels (as they say). I have to keep striding right alongside them to keep up! To name a few PEI filmmakers who inspire (by no means an exhaustive list): Adam Perry, Jenna MacMillan, Harmony Wagner, Jason Arsenault, Jeremy Larter, Kyle Simpson.
Regionally I’m deeply inspired by the work of director Ashley MacKenzie. Her films are jewels. And her filmmaking advice to me is a source of courage. She said to me once “Ignore them. Just do what you think is right.” When it comes to art I think ultimately you have to do that.
Nationally I love the work of documentarian Jennifer Baichwal. She does in documentary what I aspire to do: draw poetry from universal themes.
Globally, my greatest filmic inspiration is probably director Ron Fricke and his film Baraka. I wept for two straight hours when I first watched it. Not sad tears exactly - but happy/sad tears. The sheer awesomeness of existence itself.
What would you have done differently?
One thing that I think I’d like to change about the way I work, is that I’d like to find a constant collaborator, especially in the business side of my practice. There are many bottle-necks that occur when you are working alone (I do collaborate with many people on a per project basis, but I run my production company solo). I’d like to find a business partner to hold a mirror up to some of my blind spots, fill in the gaps, and generally make things run more smoothly.
Filmmaker, Mother, Partner, Person